x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Australia call up Faulkner and Starc for final Ashes Test at The Oval

Usman Khawaja and Jackson Bird dropped as Australia look to end disappointing series in winning fashion.

James Faulkner, centre, in action in a tour game, will make his Test debut for Australia at The Oval.
James Faulkner, centre, in action in a tour game, will make his Test debut for Australia at The Oval.
Michael Clarke has confirmed Australia will give a Test debut to the fast-bowling all-rounder James Faulkner and recall Mitchell Starc as they seek to end a disappointing Ashes series with a victory in the fifth and final Test, at The Oval.

England are 3-0 ahead after four Tests. The Australia captain announced the two changes during Tuesday's news conference ahead of first-day play on Wednesday.

"I do have a team," he said. "We have two changes. Jackson Bird is out and Usman Khawaja is out so Mitchell Starc comes in and James Faulkner makes his debut."

The 23-year-old Faulkner replaces Khawaja, the out-of-form batsman, who averaged just 19 in three Tests, after the Australia coach Darren Lehmann warned his failing top-order their places were in danger following the team's latest collapse, which helped England to a 74-run win in the fourth Test, at Durham last week and an unbeatable 3-0 series lead.

Faulkner, a left-arm fast-medium bowler and right-hand batsman, has played eight one-day internationals and three Twenty20s but has yet to score a hundred at any level of senior domestic or international cricket.

"He is a fighter and a competitor and although he might not look the best all the time, he will do his best to stay out there and help his partner make a hundred or bat with the tail to help them through," Clarke said.

"The better conditions there are for batting, the better bowler he is. I think he is the right character for this team and you will see how much talent he's got in this Test match."

The all-rounder Shane Watson, who started the series as an opener before moving to No 6, is now set to bat in the No 3 position previously occupied by Khawaja.

Meanwhile, the left-arm quick Starc's curious tour of alternate Tests continued with this latest recall.

Starc played in Australia's 14-run first Ashes Test defeat at Trent Bridge, was dropped for the 347-run second Test loss at Lord's only to be recalled again for the drawn third Test at Old Trafford and was then left out once more at Durham. But he has now got his chance again after the paceman Bird failed to impress in the fourth Test.

Starc on Monday criticised his in-out treatment by the selectors, with the bowler telling Australia's Fairfax Media: "I guess it would be nice to get a few games back to back and get that rhythm. But to have a chance at that consistency that everyone talks about . well, it's a bit hard when you play one game and you're dropped."

Clarke, responding to Starc's remarks, said: "Again, it's not about the individual player. My comments stand that if you perform well enough you won't be dropped.

"We're trying, or the selectors, I guess, are trying to be as consistent as they can but we're also here to win the game. This is not a charity tour. It's not about giving blokes a go and hoping for the best."

The latest decisions, by Lehmann and the wicketkeeping great Rodney Marsh, the two Australia selectors on tour - national selector John Inverarity is in England but as a "consultant" and to give a casting vote if required - means 17 of the 18-strong squad will have played in this Ashes series, with Australia not fielding the same top-six batting line-up in any of the five Tests.

The only exception is the reserve wicketkeeper Matthew Wade, who was being considered as a batsman only at The Oval, having scored hundreds in two of Australia's four most recent wins.

Yet with Australia having gone eight Tests without a victory, a run dating back to their 4-0 series loss in India earlier this year, Wade was unable to force his way back in to the side.

England will make at least one change due to the bowler Tim Bresnan being ruled out because of injury. However, the hosts will not announce their team until the toss on Wednesday.


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